Anger At Joyce’s Refugee Comments

Anger at Joyce's refugee comments

By Yuko Narushima
The Age (Melbourne), September 30, 2009

Barnaby Joyce's comments about asylum seekers at Christmas Island appearing to be economic migrants have angered human rights groups and the Greens.

The Nationals senator had questioned the veracity of asylum seekers' claims after witnessing their apparent happiness and health consciousness on a recent parliamentary visit.

The director of the Centre for Immigration and Multicultural Studies at the Australian National University, James Jupp, said the term ''economic refugee'' was ''a phrase that's kicked around with a view to discredit people'', but there was no such status in law.

To be owed protection, refugees worldwide must demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution in their country of origin. A person seeking financial benefit would have to apply as a skilled migrant, he said.

Amnesty International's refugee co-ordinator Graham Thom said: ''The people on the island only make it to the mainland if they meet international obligations.''

On Monday, Senator Joyce said all the people he had seen on Christmas Island ''seem very happy here Many have arrived with their multi-vitamin tablets. They don't fit the general picture of refugees under pressure.''

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young urged Senator Joyce to allow asylum seekers to be assessed according to law.

Australian authorities have rescued 43 asylum seekers from a boat off Australia's north-west coast, taking to 29 the number of unauthorised vessels to have arrived so far this year.

It was the third boat to be intercepted in three days.